Inouv 39, 228: Not So Gentle Prodding

Not So Gentle Prodding
Summary: The Duke of Sutherland prods Cass to take on a squire in his normal, gruff manner. Cass is amused but agrees to do so.
OOC Date: 28/12/2013
Related: None
Cass Ronan 
Darfield Sutherland Road
This road connects wooded Darfield with open Sutherland and comes close along the coast. To the west the Pine Mountains loom while the east drops off in low cliffs to the sea below. The wind blows almost constantly from the sea by day and out to sea by night to ripple the tall grasses like silk to the traveler's eye. It is but a narrow neck of the plains that reach this far north and east for forest once again rules to the south.

Travelers will find small settlements with farmsteads scattered. Sutherland's famous horses are not to be seen as no herds are kept close to the coast due to raiders. Here the land is gently rolling and the road well maintained, if narrow.

Inouv 39, 228

The Duke of Sutherland is on the road, heading southwards. He is well clad against the cold in a thick black cloak lined with black wolf pelts on the inside. The thickness makes Ronan look even larger than life. He rides upon his grey stallion and with him is his squire, Kierne, on his bay gelding. Behind them trail six Sutherland knights, a few more squires, a few Rangers, as well as servants and pack animals. 18 people in total, well armed. The knight in the lead behind Ronan and Kierne carries a banner pole displaying the colors and heraldry of House Crawford whipping softly in the light wind going out to the sea.

Ronan's dark eyes are alert. Most of the party is singing a song of Sutherland to pass the time cheerfully in these dark days of Inouv. It is not the most ideal time of the year to travel the roads, ill omens abounding. Nonetheless the bold Duke dares any to try and hinder his path, armed to the teeth and wearing battle plate. Ronan himself picks up a few lines with his baritone now and then but more often he listens, enjoying the voices of his men uplifted as they steadily move south.

While technically a knight himself, Cass does not dare to place himself equal with those who bear that title properly, the hedge knight further back in the ranks instead of daring to ride abreast of the Duke or any other nobles who might do so. But while he's further back his voice is easy to hear in a harmony that is a bit higher without sounding feminine.

Even though he seems focused on the song itself he's ever watchful, making sure Ronan and the others are well-protected. Nothing bad will happen to the Duke of Sutherland or his men. Not if Cass can help it.

The party has been moving since first light. They have pushed hard all day through the dimness that barely can be called daylight at all, so dark it's nearly as black as full night this time of the year. Ronan espies a village up ahead. He turns in the saddle to raise his baritone, "I want two knights and two bowman to go ahead and have a look at the village. If all is well, we shall stop there and rest the horses for an hour to sup, ere we press on."

The singing has stopped. Volunteers start to ride forward as the rest of the party continues at the same walking pace. Ronan notices Cass back there and waves him to come up, "Ride with me. I have questions for you."

While he has been under the command of House Sutherland for much longer than many Cass is not used to being addressed by those of noble birth save a few who have been tasked with commanding the commoners who act as soldiers and the hedge knight himself, among the others. Nodding once, he puts his heels to the side of his steed, encouraging him to move ahead.

Once he is within conversation distance he slows the equine down a little, making sure the spirited creature does not get too out of hand. "Yes, Your Grace," he asks once his helm is removed and set between him and the front of his saddle.

Ronan doesn't care a greasy fart what status Cass has socially. If the man is a good knight, conducts himself honorably and fights well, and is loyal, he values the man. So it is that he has likely spoken with Cass a few times, even if it has mostly been to pass on orders over the years. The Duke lightly lays fist over his heart to salute his fellow knight before he speaks low.

"You have come up from Sutherland recently to join us. I would have news of home. Is all quiet? Festival of Lights proceeds without serious incidents at Trueborn? I have heard of on going pirate activity off of our coastline. Have there been any raids or sightings I have not been informed of, Sir …. remind me of your name, Sir. Caswallawn, was it?" Aye, it has been irregular contact thus far and a great many men's names to remember through the years.

The two knights and rangers have ridden on ahead. After passing through the village and looking in at the inn, they step back out into the street to wave the Duke's party to come on in. They begin to see to their horses to give them brief respite with a light feeding but do not unsaddle them.

"Aye, Your Grace. I had stayed back to help bolster our numbers although I thought it best for me to come up with the others who met you." Cass reaches up to run a hand through his hair, keenly aware that he must look a mess, especially compared to Ronan who is undoubtedly dressed and armored in a manner befitting his status. "Things have been calm. The piracy, while a threat to be dealt with before it is allowed to grow rampant, is not so much of a pressing matter that it has to be taken care of fully now. The Festival goes as to be expected. Some fist fights amongst drunks, a few cutpurses making their circuits of the site."

Looking over towards the inn, he can't help but to smile before saying more. "It is indeed Caswallawn, Your Grace, although you may call me Cass." An easier name to pronounce, especially if one is in a hurry. "I am rather surprised you'd remember my name. Many months have passed since we last spoke to each other."

The Duke gives nod to one of the other knights who had questioned Cass when he joined them, "He inquired of your name when you joined us, and Sir Rivally passed it onto me. I thought I remembered your face but I was less certain I remembered your name. Thank you." A pause as he considers, "I believe I recall your having fought well against the Laniveer with me in years past. Refresh my memory further … you are unmarried?" Of course Ronan is nosy, he wants to know the men who ride with him, even briefly. "Your family has a manor?"

As they come into the town, the horses are halted. Dismounting, the Crawford hands the reins of his stallion over to his squire, Kierne. A step up onto the porch of the inn and there Ronan awaits his men for a moment ere they will all go in to warm themselves and eat. "And, do you have a squire?"

Cass bows his head, his hair kept out of his face by the grace of the gods. "I am honored that you remembered me. Surely, with all the men who you have fighting for and all the other people you must have met between then and now…" Stopping there, he merely chuckles. Yes. The Duke is inquisitive but that is taken in stride and he begins to answer. "No, I am not married, nor do I believe I will be until the time the war ceases, Your Grace." That is mostly in part due to his having taken the vow of chastity he has, Cass of a mind that women who'd be fine with a marriage without physical love are few and far between and would rather be in that kind of a relationship with a noble who has a lot of money instead of a poor knight like himself. "And no, we do not own a manor." Or much of anything else, for that matter.

Once the inn is reached he slides out of the saddle and reaches over to grab his helm, that being one of the few precious possessions the hedge knight owns. "Squire? Oh, no. I haven't been approached to train one. Not sure if I should take a squire any time soon."

Ronan looks the other man over, "I'm not certain if I remember you or not. Perhaps. I ask you enough questions and you tell me enough about yourself, and especially things you did to get knighted, and I may then remember with more certainty." The Duke gestures for his men to go on into the inn.

Inside it is cheery and warm with a fire crackling. The smell of good food and drink greets them, a woman laughing at something said to her as she waits on tables. A musician of mediocre skill plays a harp over by the fire and a couple of children are dancing. Candles and small tallow lamps are lighted all over the interior on tables and set on things along the walls to try and cast more festive atmosphere. It is the Festival of Lights after all and people are trying to be happy to see the month of Inouv about to end.

Now that Kierne has rejoined them, the Duke's squire choose them a table. Ronan takes a seat, making his chair creak in protest against the weight of the man and his armour. The serving woman makes her way over to take their orders.

"I wish I could say there's a lot of my life interesting enough to make a worth-while story to tell…" His voice drops when he has to move quickly out of the way once inside, Cass about bowled into by one of the patrons who is in his hurry to get outside so he can make water. Shaking his head once disaster is avoided, he shrugs, resettling the ill-sized pieces of plate mail upon his shoulders.

Once Duke and his squire are seated he picks one for himself, his hands finding their way to the table where they rest, fingers loosely laced together. "It was by the grace of the Light I was knighted, Duke Ronan. I was one of those fortunate commoner-born boys who was accepted as a squire. Over the time of my training I was given opportunity to prove myself in combat. Not any campaigns, then. Just skirmishes, mostly. But the knight who trained me felt that I had proven myself worthy of my spurs." But nothing else, leaving him with very little in the way of equipment to arm or gird himself with.

Various things are ordered. Warm cider or mulled hot wine, tea, trenchers of meats, breads, cheese, fruit, all manner of repast. Ronan himself pours a warmed hard cider from a pitcher once it's brought, laced with spices suitable to the Festival. The smells coming up as the food and drink are brought up are pretty good, even if the fare is not as rich and lavish as one gets at court. Still, this is a waystation point for travelers on the Darfield-Sutherland road so it's not bad fare either.

The Sutherland party begins to dig into their food. Rosley, Ronan's man servant, steps up to taste from his Duke's cup before Ronan may drink from it himself. Likewise he poison tests whatever food Ronan chooses. A man who's family has been murdered must take precautions.

"You were a commoner?" That surprises him and he looks the man over once more, picking up various hints that it is so by his lack of ideal gear and it's ill fit. "I see. You must either have impressed your knight surely, or he wasn't much of a knight himself. We shall see where you fall in these matters."

The food is better than what a lot of the poorer folk gets, at any rate, and is more than good and plentiful enough for Cass who finds himself suddenly ravenous. He too chooses the cider and then picks some cheese, stew and some fruit for his supper. Despite how quick he is to serve himself he also displays a keen sense of manners and he slows down once he begins to eat.

As his former knight is spoken about he looks up, his expression faintly tense. "Sir Marcus was a knight in all ways, Your Grace. A great one. A knight in heart as well as action." His tension ebbs and he sighs, his cup taken up but not yet drank out of. "I just hope I am thought of in such light… for I wish to honor him…" Shaking his head, he takes that much needed drink, doing so deeply.

That seems a good answer to Ronan who nods, "Good of you to stand up for him. I test you intentionally, and will likely do so many times to see how you react. I would know the men who serve me or fight by my side, Sir Cass." One thing that is certain, knights of Sutherland are not ill paid. There is coin enough to pay for such a good meal, even if not all of them have the same stipends levels, determined by their individual service to House Crawford.

After several bites of food, Ronan clears his mouth with cider, "Get yourself a squire. As you are not newly knighted, you should have one, or perhaps two lads to look after your things. It is your duty and obligation to train up capable young men to be knights in their own turn, to serve my House. Also, the payment their families give you for such service will slightly improve your own means, though you will spend most of it on their upkeep. My own squire or any of my other knights whom have squires can instruct you on the finer points if they elude you, Sir."

The fact that it is a test, and one that he seems to have passed, gets the poor knight to snort lightly before he laughs. "I see. Well, Duke Ronan, test away. You will find that I have nothing to hide. As the saying goes, my life is an open book." A lift of his glass is made, the Duke toasted thusly, and it is then drained, the warmed cider doing well to get the chill out of his belly.

When mention of a squire is made his brow arches and for a moment he finds himself balking. Yes, boys who are in similar situations he found himself in before he was taken under Marcus' wing would undoubtedly flock to him in hopes of being allowed to learn from him but just what could a man with little coin and very little else offer? He breaks off a piece of bread and dips it into his stew, letting it soak up some of the gravy before he speaks. "I will have to think some on that, Your Grace. I want to be sure I can provide a squire what he'd need before I allow myself such a responsibility." At least he isn't saying no. His chain mail moves noisily against his body when he moves, the small rings managing to pinch despite his wearing padding beneath it. He does what he can to keep his discomfort from showing but the wince might be easy to see, if Ronan's watching for such out of him.

Ronan is eating. Without looking up from his trencher he says, "Consider it an order, Sir Cass. Not a suggestion." A bit more meat and bread, and after chewing and swallowing it he takes a drink from his cup. Only then does he continue, "It is one of your obligations as a knight and if you have not taken squires to teach by now," and he does look to the other man seated at his table, "Then you are far past due, by your age, and long since neglecting your duty. Otherwise you do not deserve to wear the spurs you claim. So it is your choice." The Rioga lays it out and will have no objection. Yes, the Duke can be a bastard if he wants to be, as well as a stickler to knightly codes of conduct when it pleases him.

A glance at the other men among their party, "You don't see any of /them/ shirking in their duties, do you? If they were, I'd correct them and if they did not quickly amend their ways, I would dismiss them from my service."

The Rioga adds after a moment, "We can assist to make certain you pick up a lad from a knightly house, and not some poor commoner scruff who's family can't pay to outfit him." Ronan looks back to Cass, "If you choose a commoner lad, you best be prepared that you and he will take flak for it and be hard pressed to gear him."

The Duke doesn't say outright whether or not he would assist. That would depend on how good a knight the boy ultimately turned out to be.

If it were anyone else else speaking to him like this Cass would take offense but he doesn't. He instead merely nods, at first, while he eats the gravy-soaked bread he has been holding in the fingers of his right hand. There's nothing to give away his reaction, no tell to let onto what might be going through his mind.

"I was not trying to neglect my duty or anything else," gets pointed out carefully while he pours himself more drink, his gaze going from Ronan to the very men he refers to. "But unlike those knights who can be certain to provide for a squire properly I was…" A hand is held before his left shoulder and he taps at the dented, rusty plating, "If you had a son and he wished to be a knight, would you want his training and well-being to be properly handled or would you willingly throw caution to the wind and put him in my care instead?" Not that a noble wouldn't do what they could to make sure all details were taken care of, of course, but Cass is wanting to try and get him to see things from the point of view of a knight like him.

"Of course I would see any son of mine properly squired to a high noble Knight of great renown who had proven himself. You on the other hand will have to do for some poor lad who might not get squired otherwise, with some lower knightly house. It is up to /you/ to use the money his family pays to you for his training to see that he is outfitted, even better than yourself, if necessary. How you treat and educate him will be measured in the eyes of your brother knights. But if you deem yourself unworthy to take on a boy and teach him what it means to be a knight, so be it. I will release you from my House's service and you may seek service elsewhere. I will have no such shoddy knights in Sutherland." The Duke pins Cass with a hard, unflinching gaze that brooks /no/ argument.

After said pause, Ronan continues, "I judge on the other hand that you are a better man than you claim. Now is your chance to prove it to me. If you lack the backbone to make it happen then I release you from my service here and now."

Cass remains unflappable, his calm demeanor remaining in place while he's dressed down. "You're acting like I said no," he points out as a grin slowly takes hold. "I was just merely trying to explain the concerns that kept me from taking on a squire, nothing more." Despite the gruff way he was spoken to Cass speaks casually, almost as if it is a peer he is talking to and not the man who happens to be the Duke of the duchy. "I will find a boy as a squire as soon as the opportunity presents itself. But I will not take on just any child. He'll have to prove himself to me as much as I am assuming I'll have to prove myself to you."

His dinner is returned to although he isn't silent for too long, his part of the conversation happening between bites of food and drinks of his cider. "I will prove myself to you as I have striven to do since I asked to be allowed to fight under your banner, Duke Ronan." No 'I hope' or 'I wish' to his statement. He will prove himself.

Yes, that's what he wants to hear. The Rioga finishes off his own meal and pours himself a refill of his warm cider, "Excellent. I find those terms quite acceptable, so long as you do not /tarry/ over long doing so, Sir Cass. We have a war to fight, men to train, and men to kill. I will suffer no dithering and abide only decisive action. So apply yourself accordingly."

The meal is nearly concluded among them all. Ronan takes a moment to lean back in his chair and appreciate the camaraderie as well as the music, the warmth, the children smiling and playing. Things are, right here, as they should be in the world and it's good to appreciate that.

After a bit longer, and before any of them might get into their cups, the Duke rises, "Sutherlanders, let us depart. We have yet a long road ahead of us to reach Trueborn." With that, Ronan leads the way out.

While everyone makes ready to depart Cass parts company for a moment and will be mounted and ready to go once everyone outside, his helm back in place upon his head. Ronan's words ring in his ears and heart, all taken seriously. Yes, there is a war to rage and that requires properly trained men and boys to someday join them. He just hopes that they all will live long enough to see the next generation of knights earn their spurs.

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